Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 256

FYI, I offer some of my own thoughts on police towards the end.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Rebel Physicist Trying to Fix Quantum Mechanics (Bob Henderson, New York Times): “Bassi is a practicing Catholic and a believer in God, something he says is ‘unusual’ but ‘not rare” among his colleagues at the university. Einstein called his own belief that reality could be understood ‘religion,’ and I wondered if there’s a connection between Bassi’s religious faith and that in what has become essentially a far-right position in physics.” I have no opinion on the underlying scientific controversy, but Bassi sounds like a fascinating person.
  2. What the Tentmaking Business Was Really Like for the Apostle Paul (Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “[It] cost the Apostle Paul to write his letters, including the securing of materials and the hiring of a secretary to make a copy for himself. After extensive research and calculation, he determined that on the low side it would have cost him at least $2,000 in today’s currency to write 1 Corinthians. (And that doesn’t include the cost of sending someone like Titus on a long journey to deliver it.)” Short and fascinating.
  3. The Tempting of Neil Gorsuch (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “We may officially have three branches of government, but Americans seem to accept that it’s more like 2.25: A presidency that acts unilaterally whenever possible, a high court that checks the White House and settles culture wars, and a Congress that occasionally bestirs itself to pass a budget.”
  4. Religious Americans Have Less Positive Attitudes Toward Science, But This Does Not Extend to Other Cultures (Jonathon McPhetres, Jonathan Jong & Miron Zuckerman, Social Psychological and Personality Science): “It is commonly claimed that science and religion are logically and psychologically at odds with one another. However, previous studies have mainly examined American samples…” Raw data at https://osf.io/t7w6x/ DOI 10.1177/1948550620923239. The authors are professors at MIT, Oxford, and the University of Rochester.
  5. “He’s the Chosen One to Run America”: Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church and He Is the Gospel (Jeff Sharlet, Vanity Fair): “Nonbelievers roll their eyes over what they see as the gobsmacking hypocrisy of Trump as a tribune of family values, the dopiness of the rubes who consider him a moral man. Nonbelievers, in other words, miss the point. They lack gnosis. Very few believers deny Trump’s sordid past. Some turn to the old Christian ready-made of redemption: Their man was lost, but now he’s found. Others love him precisely because he is a sinner—if a man of such vast, crass, and open appetites can embody the nation (and really, who is more American—vast, crass, and open—than Trump), then you too, student of porn, monster truck lover, ultimate fighter in your dreams and games, can claim an anointing.” The title filled me with low expectations, but the article has some interesting reflections on Gnosticism in modern America. 
  6. On religious liberty:
    • The True Extent of Religious Liberty in America, Explained (David French, The Dispatch): “Yes, it is true that in some respects religious liberty is ‘under siege.’ There are activists and lawmakers who want to push back at multiple doctrines and some radicals even dream of revoking tax exemptions from religious organizations that maintain traditional teachings on sex and gender. But if the siege is real, then so is the citadel. People of faith in the United States of America enjoy more liberty and more real political power than any faith community in the developed world.” This is really good.
    • No Longer a Luxury – Religious Liberty is a National Security Priority (Christos Makridis, Providence): “…increases in religious liberty are associated with robust increases in human flourishing even after controlling for differences in gross domestic product, the labor force, and measures of economic freedom. For example, moving a country that ranks in religious liberty along the lines of Russia to one that ranks closer to the United States amounts to an 11 percent increase in the share of individuals who say that they are thriving.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. 
    • Torah Is the Air We Breathe (Gil Student, First Things): “But our spiritually impoverished society views religious practices as merely cultural expressions. It views religious services as equivalent to yoga classes and book club meetings. It does not see religion as essential, and therefore cannot understand that Jews don’t serve God as part of our lives; rather, we live to serve God.”
  7. On race, police, and protests
    • Above the Law: The Data Are In on Police, Killing, and Race (Lyman Stone, The Public Discourse): “…police killings have made up about one out of every twelve violent deaths of Americans between 2010 and 2018. That’s including American military deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere during that window. Indeed, more Americans died at the hands of police officers during that period (about 14,400) than died while on active military duty (about 9,400). Police violence in America is extraordinary in its intensity. It is disproportionate to the actual threats facing police officers, and it has risen significantly in recent years without apparent justification.”
    • Jewish businesses in Los Angeles ransacked in riots, but only Israeli and Jewish media care (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “The Oregonian called riot-plagued Portland ‘a city of plywood.’ Since then, images have emerged of a darker narrative, with rioters targeting Jewish businesses. Israeli newspapers ran with this angle this past Saturday, but by the end of the day, there was nothing about the Jewish vandalism to be found on the New York Times website. Usually the Times is pretty up on anti-Semitism, but it was easier to find a piece about Anna Wintour than any mentions of vandalized Jews.”
    • How Jesus became white — and why it’s time to cancel that (Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service): “Anderson said that it has been common for people to depict Jesus as a member of their culture or their ethnic group. ‘If a person thinks that’s the only possible representation of Jesus, then that’s where the problem starts,’ he said.” It’s almost like portraying God visually leads to trouble. I wish God had thought to warn against that.
    • Reflections from a Christian scholar on Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics (Kelly Hamren, Facebook): “I have two English degrees (B.A. and M.A.) from a Christian university and a Ph.D. in literature and criticism from a state university. In my field, Marxism is one of the most commonly studied and most influential perspectives, and Critical Race Theory is also a significant force and gaining momentum.… my studies have convinced me that the sufferings and deaths of millions are not only correlated with but largely caused by the Marxist-Leninist agenda, and I am therefore deeply opposed to Marxism as a framework. I hope that, knowing this, those patient enough to read these notes will acquit me of being a closet Marxist covering a secular agenda with a veneer of Bible verses.” The author is an English professor at Liberty University.
    • Law professor’s response to student offended by their shirt (Patricia Leary, Imgur): “Premise: You are not paying for my opinion. Critique: You are not paying me to pretend I don’t have one.” Two comments: first, this is a few years old. Second, initially looks made-up but checks out. The author is a professor at Whittier Law School: Law professor responds to students who complained about her Black Lives Matter shirt (Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed) 
    • The New Truth (Jacob Siegel, Tablet Magazine): “What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love.”
    • History Shows Free Speech Is The Loser In Mob Action (Jonathan Turley, personal blog): “What will be left when objectionable public art and academics are scrubbed from view? The silence that follows may be comforting to those who want to remove images or ideas that cause unease. History has shown, however, that orthodoxy is never satisfied with silence. It demands speech. Once all the offending statues are down, and all the offending professors are culled, the appetite for collective suppression will become a demand for collective expression.” The author is a law professor at George Washington University.
    • Of Statues and Symbolic Murder (Wilfred M. McClay, First Things): “…a great many of the foot soldiers in this movement are young, white, suburban, middle-class and college-educated; and that they are working out their salvation with fear and trembling and a deadly earnestness. The ‘white privilege’ of which these young people complain is a projection onto others of the very condition that they suspect and fear in themselves. Hence the convulsive rage, complete with copious gutter profanity, which we have all seen in videos of them. People in the grip of such powerful psychological forces will go a long way to expiate for their existential sins and rid themselves of their demons. They are easily mobilized by others. According to Pew estimates, only one out of six Black Lives Matter activists is actually black.”
      1. Related to the last sentence: George Floyd Protester Demographics: Insights Across 4 Major US Cities (MobileWalla report) has bar charts based on surveilling the cell phones of people at the protests and inferring their demographics the way marketers do. 
    • A Minneapolis Neighborhood Vowed to Check Its Privilege. It’s Already Being Tested. (Caitlin Dickerson, New York Times): “The impulse many white Powderhorn Park residents have to seek help from community groups rather than from the police is being felt in neighborhoods across the country. But some are finding the commitment hard to stand by when faced with the complex realities of life. While friends, neighbors and even family members in Powderhorn Park agree to avoid calling the police at all costs, it has been harder to establish where to draw the line.” Read through to the insane final story. 
    • I don’t often insert my own commentary in these emails, but in this case I’d like to highlight a Biblical perspective.
      1. The Bible teaches that one of the reasons that God gives governments authority is for them to use violence in the pursuit of justice. Romans 13:4 is key: “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
      2. We have freedom in how we choose to do that as a society — the Bible does not require that we use police or that we build prisons. Having said that, if we abolish domestic law enforcement then the only alternatives I see are the military, private businesses that offer protection for a fee, sanctioned vigilantism, or mob justice. These are not appealing options. Some combination of unbundling police work, reducing criminal laws while rethinking the sanctions for violating them, and increasing police pay while imposing higher standards for police conduct seems like a better path forward.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have When Children Say They’re Trans (Jesse Singal, The Atlantic): “ …to deny the possibility of a connection between social influences and gender‐identity exploration among adolescents would require ignoring a lot of what we know about the developing teenage brain—which is more susceptible to peer influence, more impulsive, and less adept at weighing long‐term outcomes and consequences than fully developed adult brains—as well as individual stories like Delta’s.” This is a long and balanced piece which has garnered outrage in some online circles. First shared in volume 157.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Christianity For Modern Pagans: Order & Method

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through an annotated translation of Pascal’s Pensees called Christianity For Modern Pagans, I’ll post the thoughts I’m emailing the students here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2020. The reading schedule is online.

The theme that seems most important to me from this first week’s readings (the preface and the chapters Order & Method) is the need to understand the heart behind someone’s skepticism. We must genuinely love our skeptical friends if we are to persuade them.

Their intellectual questions are real and have to be answered honestly, but the cries of the heart (Christianity is intolerant, faith is for ignorant people, becoming a Christian would make me into someone I wouldn’t like, following Jesus would mean abandoning fun) are far more important.

I find when I speak with unbelievers on campus their first questions to me are often tests: they want to see how I respond to purely intellectual inquiries before they begin raising the issues that really keep them from faith. And sometimes they don’t even know the real reasons they won’t consider Christianity. A reply I’ve found helpful is, “I’ll answer your question as best I can, but I’m curious: if I answer it to your satisfaction will you seriously consider becoming a Christian? If not, what would still hold you back?”

What do you think Stanford students’ biggest heart objections are to Christianity? I’m curious what you notice as you speak with your friends.

And now a few excerpts from the reading I particularly enjoyed:

In the past, the difficulty in accepting Christianity was its second point, salvation. Everyone in premodern societies knew sin was real, but many doubted salvation. Today it is the exact opposite: everybody is saved, but there is no sin to be saved from. Thus what originally came into the world as “good news” strikes the modern mind as bad news, as guilt-ridden, moralistic and “judgmental”. (page 26, Kreeft’s commentary on pensee 6)

Page 26 (from Kreeft’s commentary on pensee 6)

If he exalts himself, I humble him.
If he humbles himself, I exalt him.
And I go on contradicting him
Until he understands
That he is a monster that passes all understanding.

Page 37 (Pascal speaking, pensee 130)

When we want to correct someone usefully and show him he is wrong, we must see from what point of view he is approaching the matter, for it is usually right from that point of view, and we must admit this, but show him the point of view from which it is wrong. This will please him, because he will see that he was not wrong but merely failed to see every aspect of the question.

Page 39 (Pascal speaking, pensee 701)

Our religion is wise and foolish: wise, because it is the most learned and most strongly based on miracles, prophecies, etc., foolish, because it is not all this which makes people belong to it. . . . What makes them believe is the Cross. . . . And so St. Paul, who came with wisdom and signs, said that he came with neither wisdom nor signs, for he came to convert, but those who come only to convince may say they come with wisdom and signs.

Page 42 (Pascal speaking, pensee 842)

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 255

Again, the standalone stuff is up top and the current news items are towards the end.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Why Ditching Instagram Earned me the Podium (Madison Fischer, personal blog): “I cared so much about what everyone thought of me that it became outsourced confidence…. Pride in my accomplishments made me content, and contentedness is poison to a young athlete who has to stay hungry if she wants to stay competitive.”
  2. The Financial Finish Line (Christina Darnell, Ministry Watch): “Giving has always been another bedrock principle for the Barnharts. The company committed to giving half of their profits to ministry. The other half goes to growing the business. The first year, they gave away $50,000. The next year, it was $150,000. It grew to $1 million a year—then $1 million a month.” An inspiring story.
  3. On Cultures That Build (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “In the 21st century, the main question in American social life is not ‘how do we make that happen?’ but ‘how do we get management to take our side?’ This is a learned response, and a culture which has internalized it will not be a culture that ‘builds.’”
    • Related: Why America’s Institutions Are Failing (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “Whatever the true cause for our failure, when I look at the twin catastrophes of this annus horribilis, the plague and the police protests, what strikes me is that America’s safekeeping institutions have forgotten how to properly see the threats of the 21st century and move quickly to respond to them. Those who deny history may be doomed to repeat it. But those who deny the present are just doomed.”
  4. Is There a Religious Left? (Casey Cep, New Yorker): “The daughter of a Baptist preacher who was once the dean of the Howard University School of Divinity, Newsome came by her faith and her preaching honestly, yet almost all of the publicity that followed her act of civil disobedience [taking down the Confederate flag] stripped her protest of its theological tenor. Such is the fate of much of the activism of the so-called religious left: if it is successful, it is subsumed by broader causes and coalitions; if it fails, it is forgotten.” 
  5. Race in America
    • Most US Pastors Speak Out in Response to George Floyd’s Death (David Roach, Christianity Today): “Nearly all US pastors (94%) agree that ‘the church has a responsibility to denounce racism,’ and most (62%) say their church has made a statement on the unrest stemming from the May 25 death of George Floyd, according to a Barna Church Pulse Poll released today. The poll, conducted over the past week, also found that 76 percent of pastors say the church should support peaceful protests occurring in response to Floyd’s killing.”
    • What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger (Esau McCauley, New York Times): “Jesus experienced the reality of state-sponsored terror. That is why the black Christian has always felt a particular kinship with this crucified king from an oppressed ethnic group. The cross helps us make sense of the lynching tree.” The author is a New Testament professor at Wheaton. 
    • On the Unjust Death of George Floyd and Racism in America (Marco Rubio, The Public Discourse): “Like before, the latest unrest has given rise to voices arguing that the foundations of our republic are built on systemic racism and must therefore be brought down. The only difference is that this time claims like these don’t just come from the fringes of our politics. Like before, we also have voices who say that today race is a factor only in individual cases, distinct from our society at large. Both of these views are wrong.” This was a speech given on the floor of the Senate.
    • Racist Police Violence Reconsidered (John McWhorter, Quillette): “…these figures are not necessarily evidence of police racism. According to the Washington Post‘s database, over 95 percent of the people fatally shot by police officers in 2019 were male, and no serious-minded person argues that this is evidence of systemic misandry. So what, then, accounts for the disproportionate representation of black men among those killed by cops?” McWhorter is a professor of linguistics at Columbia. 
    • Stories and Data (Coleman Hughes, City Journal): “…the basic premise of Black Lives Matter—that racist cops are killing unarmed black people—is false. There was a time when I believed it.” The author is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
    • A Few Bad Apples? Racial Bias in Policing (Felipe Goncalves & Steven Mello, SSRN): “Using a bunching estimation design and data from the Florida Highway Patrol, we show that minorities are less likely to receive a discount on their speeding tickets than white drivers. Disaggregating this difference to the individual police officer, we find that 40% of officers explain all of the aggregate discrimination.” 40% is HUGE!
    • Why I Stopped Talking About Racial Reconciliation and Started Talking About White Supremacy (Erna Kim Hackett, Inheritance Magazine): “The term white supremacy labels the problem more accurately. It locates the problem on whiteness and its systems. It focuses on outcomes, not intentions. It is collective, not individual. It makes whiteness uncomfortable and responsible. And that is important.” Shared with me by a student.
  6. On American journalism:
    • The American Soviet Mentality (Izabella Tabarovsky, Tablet Magazine): “The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence. Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively.” The author is a scholar with the Wilson Center.
    • Is There Still Room for Debate? (Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine): “Liberalism is not just a set of rules. There’s a spirit to it. A spirit that believes that there are whole spheres of human life that lie beyond ideology — friendship, art, love, sex, scholarship, family. A spirit that seeks not to impose orthodoxy but to open up the possibilities of the human mind and soul.”
    • The American Press Is Destroying Itself (Matt Taibbi, Substack): “It isn’t the whole story, but it’s demonstrably true that violence, arson, and rioting are occurring. However, because it is politically untenable to discuss this in ways that do not suggest support, reporters have been twisting themselves into knots. We are seeing headlines previously imaginable only in The Onion, e.g., ‘27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.’”
    • The woke revolution in American journalism has begun (Damon Linker, The Week): “In place of difficulty, complexity, and complication, today’s journalistic revolutionaries crave tidy moral lessons with clear villains and heroes. They champion simplicity, embrace moral uplift, and seek out evildoers to demonize.” See also his earlier column Don’t willfully ignore the complexity of what’s happening in America right now

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have a compelling series of articles on China by a history professor at Johns Hopkins (who also happens to be a Stanford grad): China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat, China’s Master Plan: Exporting an Ideology, China’s Master Plan: A Worldwide Web of Institutions and China’s Master Plan: How The West Can Fight Back (Hal Brand, Bloomberg). The money quote from the second article: “If the U.S. has long sought to make the world safe for democracy, China’s leaders crave a world that is safe for authoritarianism.” First shared in volume 156.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 254

The less timely stuff is up top this time and there are a lot of magic videos at the bottom.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. What Unites Most Graduates of Selective Colleges? An Intact Family (Nicholas Zill & Brad Wilcox, Institute for Family Studies): “… even after controlling for parent education, family income, and student race and ethnicity, being raised by one’s married birth parents provides an additional boost to one’s chances of getting through Princeton.”
  2. What Christians Must Remember about Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control (Peter Feaver & William Inboden & Michael Singh, Providence): “Before embracing calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, thoughtful Christians must confront two uncomfortable facts. First, we live in a fallen world in which the threats we face are changing, and arguably growing. Second, the envelope of peace and security in which free societies have thrived for the past eight decades is not self-sustaining—one need only view the recent decline of democracies and rise of authoritarian threats from Russia and China. One can detest nuclear weapons and still see their strategic value.” The authors are, respectively, a professor of political science at Duke, a professor of public policy at UT Austin, and a senior fellow at a thinktank.
  3. Peer Review (Rodney Brooks, personal blog): “I came to realize that the editor’s job was real, and it required me to deeply understand the topic of the paper, and the biases of the reviewers, and not to treat the referees as having the right to determine the fate of the paper themselves. As an editor I had to add judgement to the process at many steps along the way, and to strive for the process to improve the papers, but also to let in ideas that were new.” The author is a professor emeritus of robotics at MIT.
  4. JK Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues (JK Rowling, personal blog): “…I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
  5. More on the NY Times tangle last week and what it reveals about our society
    • America is changing, and so is the media (Ezra Klein, Vox): “The news media likes to pretend that it simply holds up a mirror to America as it is. We don’t want to be seen as actors crafting the political debate, agents who make decisions that shape the boundaries of the national discourse. We are, of course. We always have been.”
    • The Still-Vital Case for Liberalism in a Radical Age (Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine): “…it is an error to jump from the fact that right-wing authoritarian racism is far more important to the conclusion that left-wing illiberalism is completely unimportant. One can oppose different evils, even those evils aligned against each other, without assigning them equal weight.”
    • Why everyone hates the mainstream media (Andrew Potter, Policy for Pandemics): “It’s not a coincidence that lawyers, journalists, and politicians are routinely ranked as the most disliked professions in the world. It’s because the law is not about justice, politics is not about democracy, and the news is not about information. But in each case, that is what emerges, by harnessing the status-conscious competitive natures of the participants.” The author is a former journalist and editor.
  6. Thoughts on race and racism:
    • George Floyd and Me (Shai Linn, Gospel Coalition): “Though I’m deeply grieved, I am not without hope. Personally, I have little confidence in our government or policymakers to change the systemic factors that contributed to the George Floyd situation. But my hope isn’t in the government. My hope is in the Lord.”
    • American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go (David French, The Dispatch): “If politically correct progressives are often guilty of over-racializing American public discourse, and they are, politically correct conservatives commit the opposite sin—and they filter out or angrily reject all the information that contradicts their thesis.”
    • This moment cries out for us to confront race in America (Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post): “Still, we simply must acknowledge that society is not color-blind and probably never will be. Progress comes when people treat one another with respect, as if we were color-blind. Unless and until we are honest that race is still an anchor around our country’s neck, that shadow will never be lifted. Our country has a birth defect: Africans and Europeans came to this country together — but one group was in chains.” She is, of course, a fellow believer and also a Stanford professor who will soon be the director of the Hoover Institution. 
    • Our Present Moment: Why Is It So Hard? (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “I’m thinking more broadly about why race in this country is so difficult, and in particular difficult even between people of good will, between people in your church of a different color. I’m thinking about people who agree on so many other things. And you sing the same songs and you really love Jesus together. And you read the same Bible, and you really are together for the gospel. So why is it so divisive?” Some really good thoughts in here.
  7. On the protests
    • The protests started out looking like 1968. They turned into 1964. (Omar Wasow, Washington Post): “For a growing international movement trying to draw attention to the long history of racist and brutal policing, nonviolence in the face of police repression is an exceedingly difficult strategy to sustain. Evidence from the 1960s, however — and perhaps this month, too — suggests using such tactics to generate media coverage of a pressing social problem can be a powerful tool for building a coalition for social change.”
    • We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight (Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Guardian): “Two weeks ago we shamed people for being in the street; today we shame them for not being in the street.”
    • Tribalism Comes for Pandemic Science (Yuval Levin, The New Atlantis): “These public health professionals are simply admitting that their views on the health risks of large gatherings depend on the political valence of those gatherings. Rather than compartmentalize their professional judgment from their political priorities — explaining the risks of large protests regardless of their political content and then separately and in a different context expressing whatever views they might have about that content — they openly deny not only the possibility but even the desirability of detached professional advice. This kind of attitude inevitably makes it much harder for the public to assess scientific claims about the pandemic through anything other than a political lens.”
    • The Growing CHAZm in Seattle (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “It took activists less than 24 hours to discover that even their make-believe Duchy of Grand Fenwoke relies on the basic building blocks of any polity. If Seattle’s supine and sausage-spined political leadership allows this experiment to continue, pretty soon you can expect the emergence of currency, taxes, even some kind of charter or constitution. It wouldn’t shock me if they ended up creating rudimentary courts or even a jail.” Goldberg is an expert at the meandering rant. 
    • Anarchy In Seattle (Christopher Rufo, City Journal): “The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone has set a dangerous precedent: armed left-wing activists have asserted their dominance of the streets and established an alternative political authority over a large section of a neighborhood. They have claimed de facto police power over thousands of residents and dozens of businesses—completely outside of the democratic process. In a matter of days, Antifa-affiliated paramilitaries have created a hardened border, established a rudimentary form of government based on principles of intersectional representation, and forcibly removed unfriendly media from the territory.”
    • A Dark Cloud For Democracy (Carl Trueman, First Things): “…this does not entirely explain why Minneapolis and not Hong Kong has grabbed the imagination of British youth. After all, Hong Kong is a much more recent part of the British narrative; one can watch the dismantling of Hong Kong’s constitution online and on the television; and an extremely good case can be made that the British government is more responsible for that mess and its potential amelioration than for the chaos in the Minneapolis police department. After all, the British can actually do something about it—as Boris Johnson’s pledge on immigration to the U.K. from Hong Kong indicates. So why Minneapolis, not Hong Kong?”
    • If we want better policing, we’re going to have to spend more, not less (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “Reform is thus more likely to stick if we co-opt the unions rather than trying to break them. Instead of ‘defund the police,’ what if we offloaded the nonjudicial parts of their work, like dealing with the homeless and the mentally ill, to social workers, and then ‘stuffed their mouths with gold’ to reform the policing part? We could offer a significant salary boost in exchange for accepting stricter standards and oversight, which wouldn’t just ease the political obstacles, but possibly attract higher-quality candidates to the police force.”
    • Most Americans Want Police Reform But Don’t Back ‘Defund The Police’ (Ariel Edwards-Levy and Kevin Robillard, Huffington Post): “A near-universal majority of Americans support at least some changes to policing in the United States following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. There is majority support for proposals circulating in Congress to ban chokeholds and make it easier to track and charge officers accused of misconduct. But the idea of ‘defunding the police’ has little support from the public.”
    • Police Brutality: The Ferguson Effect (Robert Verbruggen, National Review): “There’s a temptation in some quarters to think this issue is like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, where there’s a turning point in public opinion and a rapid shift in policy and then everyone wonders what the big deal ever was. See, for example, Tim Alberta’s piece in Politico today, which bizarrely claims we may be seeing the ‘last stand’ of law-and-order Republicans and draws those two parallels explicitly. But crime isn’t like that. When the streets become unsafe, public opinion shifts back in favor of the folks who stand between the innocents and the bad guys.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have The Problem with Dull Knives: What’s the Defense Department got to do with Code for America? (Jennifer Pahlka, Medium): “I have a distinct memory of being a kid in the kitchen with my mom, awkwardly and probably dangerously wielding a knife, trying to cut some tough vegetable, and defending my actions by saying the knife was dull anyway. My mom stopped me and said firmly, ‘Jenny, a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife. You’re struggling and using much more force than you should, and that knife is going to end up God Knows Where.’ She was right, of course…. But having poor tools [for the military] doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.” (some emphasis in the original removed). Highly recommended. First shared in volume 155.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 253

Specific suggestions for police reform, various explainers and opinion pieces, and some weird news about TikTok and Christianity.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. On the racial division in America:
    • How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change (Barack Obama, Medium): “Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities.” Emphasis in original.
    • Some specific policy proposals: “For those who are interested in research-based solutions to stop police violence, here’s what you need to know — based on the facts and data. A thread. (1/x)” (Samuel Sinyangwe, Twitter)
    • More specific policy proposals: How to Actually Fix America’s Police (Seth W. Stoughton, Jeffrey J. Noble & Geoffrey P. Alpert, The Atlantic): “‘Overcriminalization’ has been broadly discussed; there are so many laws that violations are ubiquitous. If everyone is a criminal, officers have almost unfettered discretion to pick and choose which laws to enforce and whom to stop, frisk, search, or arrest.” The authors have an interesting combination of expertise (a law prof, a criminology prof, and a former officer).
    • I Must Object: A Rebuttal to Brown Univ.’s Letter Decrying Pervasive Racism in US (Glenn C. Loury, City Journal): “I deeply resented the letter. First of all, what makes an administrator (even a highly paid one, with an exalted title) a ‘leader’ of this university? We, the faculty, are the only ‘leaders’ worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas. Who cares what some paper-pushing apparatchik thinks? It’s all a bit creepy and unsettling. Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?” Loury, who is black, is an econ professor at Brown. He did not come to play.
    • Efrem Smith: White Evangelicals Need to Humble Themselves (Bob Smietana, Christianity Today): “I’ve been encouraged, especially in the evangelical wing of the church, to see more pastors speaking out, being brokenhearted, calling for change. But then there’s also a significant segment of evangelicalism that is either silent or late to the party when it comes to the church calling for justice.”
    • A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit (Esau McCaulley, Christianity Today): “There is no other world in which to talk about Jesus than a world in which black men can have their necks stepped on for nine minutes.” The author is an Anglican priest and a professor of New Testament at Wheaton. 
    • Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LA Times): “…even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges.”
    • On Days of Disorder (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “Notice that this schema is value neutral: it describes both the football hooligan and the race rioter, 19th century Russian pogroms and 21st century Hong Kong street battles. In all of these a certain percentage of the participants plays the game for fairly mundane reasons: to revel in excitement or terror, lose themselves in a rare sense of solidarity, belonging, or power, or to simply gain the monetary rewards that come with theft and looting. The proportion of the population willing to join a riot to attain these things likely reflects the proportion of the population otherwise cut off from them in normal times. Few rioters are married men who must be at work at 8:00 AM the next morning.” This was quite good. Recommended.
    • Simplicity Is The Enemy & Bad Apples (Jonathan Last, The Bulwark): “What’s happening in America right now is large and complicated. We have a series of problems, some of which overlap, some of which do not. And attempts to solve them have, historically, been stymied by conflating them and believing that they are simple and connected.”
  2. On the pandemic:
    • The Treason of Epidemiologists (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “The simple fact is that whatever legislation we’re going to get, we’d still get if the protests stopped this morning. In fact, a reasonable person would conclude we’d be more likely to get it if they stopped now, because the more these things go on, the more opposition and resentment will grow.” 
    • Related: “A thread about how protesting during a pandemic was described when conservatives were doing it” (Matt Walsh, Twitter)
    • Surgisphere: governments and WHO changed Covid-19 policy based on suspect data from tiny US company (Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Sarah Boseley, The Guardian): “The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known US healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.” This is actually nuts.
    • The C.D.C. Waited ‘Its Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong? (Eric Lipton, Abby Goodnough, Michael D. Shear, Megan Twohey, Apoorva Mandavilli,Sheri Fink & Mark Walker, New York Times): “…the C.D.C. is risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis — particularly one that shuts down the country and paralyzes the economy.”
  3. The Museum of the Bible is winning over some of its biggest critics: Jewish scholars (Menachem Wecker, Washington Post): “Mintz believes Jewish scholars who denounced evangelical tones in the museum may have done so because they don’t see eye-to-eye with its politically conservative owners. But, she notes, the museum itself caters to Jews. She cites a time when it arranged kosher food for an event in which her husband, an Orthodox rabbi, participated. ‘They were just nice about it,’ she says.”
  4. Christian TikTok videos are censored and deleted in the US, creators say (Liza Vandenboom, Religion Unplugged): “Christian content is often censored and removed from TikTok, according to several creators on the platform. The China-based social media app hosts short, snippy videos ranging from inspirational mini-speeches to musical and dance performances and is popular with teenagers and young adults. The platform reports over 800 million active users, with 30 million active users in the U.S. Researchers have grown concerned over the app’s reach and the possibility of it bringing Chinese-style censorship to mainstream U.S. audiences.” 
  5. Technocracy Is Impossible (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “Leaders should pay attention to scientists, dramatically more than the current Presidential administration does, but an immunologist will say one thing, an epidemiologist something slightly different, an economist something altogether other. The various sciences and academic disciplines will not speak with a single voice, indeed will not speak at all: individual scholars will speak, and what they say will arise from a combination of their scholarly expertise and their beliefs (derived from non-scientific sources) about what matters most in life, and a good political leader will have the general intelligence and moral discernment to sift the various messages he or she receives and make a decision based on all the relevant input.”
  6. There was a fight at the New York Times this week. I’m not actually that interested in the op-ed that provoked it, but I am quite interested in how the fight is playing out. The New York Times occupies a special place in the American media ecosystem and fights like this illuminate some of what is happening beneath the surface.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “Overfitting is possible with just one parameter and so models with fewer parameters are not necessarily preferable even if they fit the data as well or better than models with more parameters.” Researchers take note. The underlying mathematics paper is well‐written and interesting: One Parameter Is Always Enough (Steven T. Piantadosi) — among other things, it points out that you can smuggle in arbitrarily large amounts of data into an equation through a single parameter because a number can have infinite digits. Obvious once stated, but I don’t know that it ever would have occurred to me. First shared in volume 154.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 252

There was an abundance of sad news this week, which matches this month, which matches this year.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep, and this is a good week for that. I’ve had to share articles about similar wickedness too many times, beginning all the way back in volume 4.
    • I think this 8 minute Facebook video by my friend Jamil Stell is good. He filmed it a few hours before George Floyd’s death, which is why he doesn’t reference it. Jamil, who spoke at our fall retreat four years ago, is the Chi Alpha director at Cal State Stanislaus.
    • I Specifically Requested The Opposite of This (Imgur) — if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a picture with a great caption is an entire treatise.
    • The Sorrows of Minneapolis: A Prayer for Our City (John Piper, Desiring God): difficult to excerpt, quite good.
    • When the Law Doesn’t Contain All the Answers (Bob Driscoll, The Dispatch): “The law, even applied correctly, doesn’t remedy what we know is wrong. We can hope that the George Floyd killing can provide some insight into the feeling of frustration in many minority communities surrounding policing issues, because we can see, or at least sense, the depth of the problem. Assuming the system properly tries and convicts the kneeling officer of some serious offense, will you feel any better about George Floyd’s death? I won’t.”
    • George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a ‘person of peace’ ushering ministries into the area.”
    • Did George Floyd and Then-Officer Derek Chauvin Work Together in Minneapolis? (Snopes): “So while it’s true that Floyd and Chauvin worked at the club at the same time, it’s unknown, and unlikely, according to the former owner of the building where the club was located, that the two men knew each other.”
    • Cooped up: A shameful Central Park encounter demands all New Yorkers be better people (Robert A. George, NY Daily News) : “In the latest episode of the everyday-fresh-hell that is New York City under quarantine, one white female, Amy Cooper, was caught on video calling the cops on one black male, Christian Cooper. Sorry, folks, I’d encourage everyone to push back on the reflexive instinct to make this into a story about racism as it’s more a modern parable of bad behavior between two individuals.” Super-interesting.
    • White People Behaving Badly (Zaid Jilani, Arc Digital): “The truth is, measured explicit and implicit racial bias has rapidly declined, interracial crimes are rare, and whites are actually underrepresented compared to their share of the population in the FBI’s index of hate crimes. No racial group has a monopoly on hate, whatever anecdotes elevated to news coverage may lead us to believe.”
    • Anger Is Justified, Riots Never Are (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “Riots are bad. Riots are never a coherent or moral response to injustice, they just multiply injustices and the rioters themselves often suffer more in the long run…. Riots dissuade individuals, families, and businesses from staying in or joining a community. Who wants to raise their kids in the neighborhood where the police station had to be evacuated before it was set ablaze?” Some research on the effects of riots The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots in American Cities: Evidence from Property Values (Collins & Margo, Journal of Economic History on JSTOR) and this Twitter thread by a Princeton professor.
    • A differing perspective: What the news doesn’t show about protests in Minneapolis and Louisville (Jason Johnson, Vox): “Nighttime coverage will seldom show a full city map demonstrating that, two blocks over from a street that looks like a ‘city engulfed in flames,’ there’s a CVS still open for business. The press flocking to dramatic images as a protest metaphor is not a new phenomenon.” The author is a professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University.
    • George Floyd protests: Photos show uprisings across America (Jen Kirby and Kainaz Amaria, Vox): striking images.
  2. About China:
    • The Infinite Heartbreak of Loving Hong Kong (Wilfred Chan, The Nation): “Something profound has been lost. It is not democracy, because Hong Kong was never democratic. It is not autonomy, because Hong Kong never enjoyed self-determination. It is certainly not the will to resist; as I write this, activists are already planning a full calendar of mass protests, determined to fight until the bitter end. What is lost is the feeling that Hong Kong’s future could be an open question.”
    • Pompeo declares Hong Kong no longer autonomous from China (Carol Morello, Washington Post): “‘Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising, and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure,’ [Pompeo] added. ‘But sound policymaking requires a recognition of reality. While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.’”
    • What to Make of Secretary Pompeo Decertifying Hong Kong Autonomy (Julian Ku, Lawfare): “Although Pompeo’s dramatic announcement drew headlines around the world, his decision should not have surprised observers, given the new requirements on any such certification imposed by Congress in November 2019.”
    • ‘All-out combat’ feared as India, China engage in border standoff (Saif Khalid, Al Jazeera): “A video shot by an Indian soldier and shared on social media showed soldiers from both nations engaged in fistfights and stone-pelting at the de facto border, known as Line of Actual Control (LAC). The incident, which continued until the next day, resulted in 11 soldiers being injured on both sides.” The headline seems a bit over-the-top. I talked with a friend who has some relevant expertise and he is not that concerned. Still worth keeping an eye on. 
    • China-India border: Clashes raise fears of broader confrontation as Beijing pursues sovereignty claims on all fronts (Anna Fifield and Joanna Slater, Washington Post): “The relationship between the two countries remains tense, exacerbated by efforts from both capitals to stoke nationalist sentiment. The obvious place for this to erupt is at the point where the two countries bump up against each other.” 
  3. ‘AKA Jane Roe’ and the humiliation of the pro-life movement (Karen Swallows Prior, Religion News Service): “Even before the film aired, headline after headline heaped humiliation on pro-lifers. The Los Angeles Times reported that McCorvey had been paid to change her mind. This was misleading: McCorvey wasn’t paid to change her mind — she was paid to speak at pro-life events after she claimed she had changed her position.”
    • Related: FX documentary on Norma McCorvey omits key Catholic sources who knew her best (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “Also, the documentary is coy about one important thing. To get access to McCorvey, surely they had to pay up too? We call that ‘checkbook journalism’ and ethical news organizations don’t offer money to their interviewees. When pressed by the Washington Post, the film’s producer admitted he paid her a ‘modest licensing fee’ for use of family photos and documentary footage.” 
  4. Pandemic Perspectives:
    • Conservatives who refuse to wear masks undercut a central claim of their beliefs (Megan McArdle, Washington Post): “[Refusing to wear masks] also undercuts a more central claim of conservatism: that big, coercive government programs are unnecessary because private institutions could provide many benefits that we think of as ‘public goods.’ For that to be true, the civic culture would have to be such that individuals are willing to make serious sacrifices for the common good, and especially to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
    • Reopening churches safely: What pastors in Utah, Georgia have learned (Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News): “The Rev. Leroy Davis wants his church to feel as safe as Costco. The service will hopefully be a little more personal, he said, but the environment should seem just as clean.“
    • The Regulatory State Is Failing Us (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “It is important not to make this a partisan conflict. I do not view the administrative state as extra-constitutional. That said, it has become far too inflexible, and not sufficiently focused on outcomes. It is time we woke up and realized that we have a system that simply is not working.”
    • COVID-19 Has Exposed Critical Weaknesses in Global Higher Education (Christos Makridis and Soula Parassidis): “While publicly available data does not seem to exist to identify the source of the increasing proliferation of degree programs, many students have been funneled into degree programs without an accurate representation of what they are going to learn and their post-graduation labor market prospects.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry. 
  5. Have Pentecostals Outgrown Their Name? (Daniel Silliman, Christianity Today): “Names can be tricky. What do you call a Pentecostal who isn’t called a Pentecostal? The question sounds like a riddle, but it’s a real challenge for scholars. They have struggled for years to settle on the best term for the broad and diverse movement of Christians who emphasize the individual believer’s relationship to the Holy Spirit and talk about being Spirit-filled, Spirit-baptized, or Spirit-empowered.”
  6. Conn. transgender policy found to violate Title IX (ESPN): “Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender girls to compete as girls in high school sports violates the civil rights of athletes who have always identified as female, the U.S. Education Department has determined in a decision that could force the state to change course to keep federal funding and influence others to do the same.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative (Rob Henderson, New York Times): “Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities. For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right.” The author just graduated from Yale. Worth reading regardless of your political allegiances. First shared in volume 153.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 251

Concerning the benefits of religion, the virtue of intellectual humility, perspectives on the pandemic, the global strategy of the Chinese Communist Party, and an unsettling account of governmental surveillance.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Religious services may lower risk of ‘deaths of despair’ (Chris Sweeney, Harvard Gazette): “After adjusting for numerous variables, the study showed that women who attended services at least once per week had a 68 percent lower risk of death from despair compared to those never attending services. Men who attended services at least once per week had a 33 percent lower risk of death from despair.” Those are HUGE reductions!
  2. Pandemic Perspectives
    • Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reëntry (Atul Gawande, The New Yorker): “But, in the face of enormous risks, American hospitals have learned how to avoid becoming sites of spread. When the time is right to lighten up on the lockdown and bring people back to work, there are wider lessons to be learned from places that never locked down in the first place.” This was quite good.
    • What African Nations Are Teaching the West About Fighting the Coronavirus (Jina Moore, The New Yorker): “Much of what Gercama encountered at the airport had been designed to prevent Ebola. Since 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan’s neighbor to the southwest, has been struggling with the disease. But local public-health officials’ quick repurposing of Ebola protocols and infrastructure impressed Gercama, as did the work of rapid-response teams, whom she twice witnessed respond to suspected coronavirus cases during the week she spent in the country.”
    • A Spectacularly Bad Washington Post Story on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification Project (John Gruber, blog): “A Washington Post story today on Apple and Google’s joint effort on COVID-19 exposure notification project, from reporters Reed Albergotti and Drew Harwell, is the worst story I’ve seen in the Post in memory. It’s so atrociously bad — factually wrong and one-sided in opinion — that it should be retracted.” Ouch. Gruber backs it up. 
    • Coronavirus Crisis: Ron DeSantis Got Florida’s COVID-19 Strategy Right (Rich Lowry, National Review): “A couple of months ago, the media, almost as one, decided that Governor Ron DeSantis was a public menace who was going to get Floridians killed with his lax response to the coronavirus crisis…. The conventional wisdom has begun to change about Florida, as the disaster so widely predicted hasn’t materialized.”
    • As more states reopen, Georgia defies predictions of coronavirus resurgence. What’s the lesson for the rest of the country? (Andrew Romano, Yahoo News): “That’s the balance reopening needs to strike if it’s going to work: fewer official restrictions in exchange for more individual and community responsibility.”
    • A contrary perspective: It Sure Seems Like Florida And Georgia Lied About Their Infection Rates (Luis Prada, Cracked): “Florida and Georgia are petulant, entitled quarantine protesters embodied as states. Since this all started, both states have been frantically searching for an excuse to end their quarantines as fast as possible and get back to life as usual despite a rampaging virus that’s killing people.”
    • Mississippi church destroyed by arson was suing city over safer-at-home order (Arianna Poindexter, WLBT TV): “A Mississippi church at the center of an arson investigation is the same church currently in a battle with city leaders over a COVID-19 safer-at-home order. First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs was destroyed by what investigators believe is an arsonist. Investigators found graffiti on pavement in the church parking lot that reads, ‘Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic).’” 
    • Meet the ‘Gang Pastor’ Behind Cape Town’s Viral Coronavirus Cooperation (Jayson Casper, Christianity Today): “We regularly stop while we are working to invite people to follow Jesus. I’ve lost track, but maybe 5,000 to 10,000 have told us they’ve repented and are turning to follow Jesus. But I don’t call this success, it is just a small piece in the overall cause of what we Christians are called to do.”
    • Donald Trump Doesn’t Want Authority (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Great men and bad men alike seek attention as a means of getting power, but our president is interested in power only as a means of getting attention.”
  3. Uncertainty (Howard Marks, Oaktree Capital): “The people who are always sure are no more helpful than the people who are never sure. The real expert’s confidence is reason-based and proportional to the weight of the evidence.” Shared by an alumnus’ father.
  4. China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order (Tanner Greer, Tablet Magazine): “As Beijing sees it, China’s success depends on discrediting the tenets of liberal capitalism so that notions like individual freedom and constitutional democracy come to be seen as the relics of an obsolete system.” I found this piece to be very insightful.
    • Related: In China’s Crisis, Xi Sees a Crucible to Strengthen His Rule (Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley, New York Times): “Mr. Xi, shaped by his years of adversity as a young man, has seized on the pandemic as an opportunity in disguise — a chance to redeem the party after early mistakes let infections slip out of control, and to rally national pride in the face of international ire over those mistakes. And the state propaganda machine is aggressively backing him up, touting his leadership in fighting the pandemic.”
    • Related: Xi’s Regime Recasts China as the Good Samaritan during Pandemic (Alan Dowd, Providence): “Add it all up—the PR spin, the propaganda push, the pallets of aid, the preening—and in a very real sense, Xi Jinping’s regime is offering a new, twisted version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In Xi’s retelling, the roadside robbers who assault the traveler later return to rescue him—and somehow expect to be hailed as heroes.”
    • An explosive summer of discontent is brewing in Hong Kong (Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post): “On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities extended pandemic-related rules limiting public gatherings to effectively ban, for the first time, a June 4 vigil marking the anniversary of China’s massacre of student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.”
    • China Pushes for New Hong Kong Security Law (Keith Bradsher and Austin Ramzy, New York Times): “The legislative push in Beijing marks the most aggressive step by the party to exert its influence over the former British colony since it was reclaimed by China in 1997.”
    • Seriously — pray for Hong Kong.
  5. A Mississippi pastor with eight kids and no professional music background won ‘The Voice’ — and made show history (Emily Yahr, Washington Post): ““‘I’ve literally never performed. I just sing at church,’ Tilghman explained, introducing himself as a pastor. This sparked an attempt to prove who was the biggest church fan; Legend revealed his grandfather was a pastor, and Jonas one-upped him by boasting his father was a pastor.”
  6. Under the Rainbow Banner (Darel Paul, First Things): “In June 1999, President Bill Clinton declared the first national Pride Month. Twenty years later, June is as teeming with rainbows as December is with reindeer. The Pride flag flies above embassies, state capitols, and stadiums. Rainbow stripes adorn city crosswalks.”
    • In response: Queer Times (Carl Trueman, First Things): “The debate over LGBTQ issues is not a debate about sexual behavior. I suspect it is not really at this point a debate with the L, the G, or the B. It is the T and the Q that are carrying the day, and we need to understand that the debate is about the radical abolition of metaphysics and metanarratives and any notion of cultural stability that might rest thereupon.”
  7. Since I Met Edward Snowden, I’ve Never Stopped Watching My Back (Barton Gellman, The Atlantic): “Someone had taken control of my iPad, blasting through Apple’s security restrictions and acquiring the power to rewrite anything that the operating system could touch. I dropped the tablet on the seat next to me as if it were contagiou” Recommended by a student. Gripping and disturbing.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 250

Probably my favorite article in this bunch is the epidemiological analysis of the seven deadly sins. What a genius idea.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Also, this is the 250th of these weekly roundups I have published. Even though last week was number 249, I was still surprised to type in 250 this week. Someday I’ll remember a special number is coming up and do something different for it. But not this day.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Are the Wages of Sin Really Death?: Moral and Epidemiologic Observations (David Lyle Jeffrey and Jeff Levin, Christian Scholar’s Review): “So, are the wages of sin really death? As far as population-health research suggests, the answer is a guarded yes.” The authors are professors at Baylor, one of epidemiology and the other of literature. 
  2. Kids’ TV has a porn problem (BrazyDay, Medium): “In a very real way, the ‘hypersexual and toxic’ culture that has sprung up around children’s TV cartoons is of companies’ own making. They actively allow it to happen simply by doing nothing — creating a lawless vacuum where anything goes and porn coexists with harmless fan creations.” This article was much better than I expected it to be. 
  3. How We Got the Bible (Dirk Jongkind,Desiring God): “…by understanding what God had done over the ages, we will see that it is reasonable and justified to trust that the Bible in our hands is a translation of the trustworthy words of Scripture.” The author is a research fellow in New Testament text and language at Tyndale House, Cambridge University. 
  4. The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months (The Guardian): “The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarrelled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer. Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat – an instrument Peter has kept all these years – and played it to help lift their spirits.“ Recommended by a student.
    • Fascinating Twitter thread in response by Tanner Greer: “Lord of the Flies is one of those novels that people remember wrong. People remember its central theme as ‘take away civilization, and we all turn into Hobbesian little monsters.’ But if you read the book as an adult, instead of an 8th grader speeding through, you find a different meaning.”
  5. Should Religious Conservatives Aspire to Notoriety? (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “You don’t go looking for power and prestige. You aspire to be faithful. If prestige finds you, then you allow yourself to be extruded into it and pray that God protect you from the spiritual dangers.” This is essay is part of a swarm of internet articles about the trajectory of the magazine First Things, but you don’t have to read anything else about that (or even care much about that) to find this essay worthwhile. 
  6. Pandemic Perspectives
    • “Our regulatory state is failing us” Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “When the CDC pooh-poohed masks early on, or botched their testing kit thereby delaying U.S. testing by weeks or maybe months, did the permanent staff of the CDC rise up and rebel and leak howling protests to the media, realizing that thousands of lives were at stake? That is surely what would happen if say the current FDA announced it was going to approve thalidomide.” This is a link to a search result on his blog, keep scrolling after you finish the main article to see several examples of what he is describing. 
    • Coronavirus Pandemic: A Plea for Generosity (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review): “There is a good reason to hesitate to judge, namely our ignorance. Plagues are a time for scapegoats and blame-shifting precisely because they deal out suffering such a seemingly unjust and random fashion. Our leaders say they will follow the science, but they can’t, really. With a heretofore-unseen virus such as this one, the science is more like inherited wisdom and intuition from previous, similar maladies, at least at the start. What follows is a confused rush to catch up through trial and error.“
    • The Risks — Know Them — Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, personal blog): “I regularly hear people worrying about grocery stores, bike rides, inconsiderate runners who are not wearing masks.… are these places of concern? Well, not really. Let me explain.” The author is a biology professor at U Mass who teaches courses on immunology and infectious disease. Recommended by an alumnus. 
    • No, the superspreader choir in Washington doesn’t prove church is dangerous (Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner): “It’s hard to blame the choir for not taking more precautions, as this was March 10, before stuff really hit the fan (and when our government was still telling people NOT to wear masks).”
      • This op-ed is based on a CDC investigation: “The March 10 choir rehearsal lasted from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Several members arrived early to set up chairs in a large multipurpose room. Chairs were arranged in six rows of 20 chairs each, spaced 6–10 inches apart with a center aisle dividing left and right stages.”
    • Lockdown is over. Someone tell the government (Dominic Green, Spectator USA): “Every society has reacted to COVID-19 according to its principles or, if no principles were to hand, its habits. It has been America’s misfortune that its principles and habits are ill-suited to managing an epidemic.”
    • Take the Shutdown Skeptics Seriously (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “The general point is that minimizing the number of COVID-19 deaths today or a month from now or six months from now may or may not minimize the human costs of the pandemic when the full spectrum of human consequences is considered. The last global depression created conditions for a catastrophic world war that killed roughly 75 to 80 million people. Is that a possibility? The downside risks and costs of every approach are real, frightening, and depressing, no matter how little one thinks of reopening now.”
    • Coronavirus and The Myopia of American Exceptionalism (Brad Littlejohn, Mere Orthodoxy): “Rather than proving ourselves exceptional, we simply assume that we are. The ordinary rules do not apply to us, because we are America. We make things better here, we run things more efficiently here, we live more happily here, because we are America. There is no need to look at OECD rankings, because we already know that they are wrong if they show us anywhere but #1…. this way of thinking, far from making America great, is almost certain to make her the opposite. After all, the only way to improve is to learn, and the chief way we learn as human beings is from the examples of others.”
    • The Miracle of the Internet (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “The surge in traffic, on the internet as a whole and on AT&T’s part of the network, is extraordinary in a way that the phrase 20 percent increase doesn’t quite capture. AT&T’s network is carrying an extra 71 petabytes of data every day. How much is 71 petabytes? One comparison: Back at the end of 2014, AT&T’s total network traffic was 56 petabytes a day; in just a few weeks, AT&T has accommodated more new traffic every day than its total daily traffic six years ago. (During the pandemic, the AT&T network has been carrying about 426 petabytes a day—one petabyte is 1 million gigabytes.)”
    • Stanford’s $27.7 billion not enough to house students in need amid pandemic (Sheikh Srijon, Stanford Daily): “Harvard is allowing those on campus with demonstrated need to stay for the whole summer for only $200. MIT is offering free housing and meals. Duke is offering free housing and partial compensation for lost summer earnings to those with substantial financial aid.… Compare Stanford’s policy to these institutions’ policies. Though it has a $27.7 billion dollar endowment (as of October 2019), it is charging students nearly $6,000 for summer housing and meals in times of such financial uncertainty.”
  7. The New York Times Surrendered to an Outrage Mob. Journalism Will Suffer For It. (Pamela Paresky, Jonathan Haidt, Nadine Strossen And Steven Pinker, Politico): “…for the Times to ‘disappear’ passages of a published article into an inaccessible memory hole is an Orwellian act that, thanks to the newspaper’s actions, might now be seen as acceptable journalistic practice. It is all the worse when the editors’ published account of what they deleted is itself inaccurate. This does a disservice to readers, historians and journalists, who are left unable to determine for themselves what the controversy was about, and to Stephens, who is left unable to defend himself against readers’ worst suspicions.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 151.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 249

The vindication of a vilified missionary, thoughts about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and pandemic perspectives.

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Missionary on Trial (Ariel Levy, The New Yorker): “According to a study published in 2017 in The American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, fourteen per cent of children treated for severe acute malnutrition at Mulago Hospital—Uganda’s best facility—died. The study notes that the over-all mortality rate in Africa for children with S.A.M. is between twenty and twenty-five per cent. During the years when Serving His Children functioned as an in-patient facility, its rate was eleven per cent.”
    • Recommended. If you want to dig deeper, last October a Ugandan television station did a twenty-minute story on this case which also discredited the missionary’s accusers. Proverbs 18:17 wins again.
    • I see a similar dynamic in some students who are feeling angst over their faith. Upon conversation, I often learn that they have been told untrue or misleading things about missions, the history of the church, and the present status of the church in the world. Always remember that critics might have motives beyond simply establishing the truth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to them, but it does mean that you don’t treat their complaints as axioms. When this reporter flew to Uganda and talked to people on the ground she quickly learned that the internationally-accepted narrative was not right.
  2. Why We Opened a Christian University in Iraq Amid ISIS’ Genocide (Jayson Caspar, Christianity Today): “There was an unwritten understanding that the Christians would not overtly proselytize and share the gospel, but be indirect and not offend sharia law. But after ISIS and the lack of any real response from the Muslim world, Archbishop Warda says that this agreement is now finished. That as we go forward, we will no longer be shy. We are going to proclaim the gospel, proclaim the teachings of Christ, and whoever comes to us will come…. There may not be many Christians in Iraq. But as an old priest said once to me, ‘Well, remember Christ only had 12, and everyone wanted to kill them, too.’”
  3. Exquisite Scandal (Nancy Lemann, Lapham’s Quarterly): “The familiar theory at the trial was that the people of Louisiana would rather be entertained than served with ethics. Some would call this a Gallic attitude, to be blinded by charm at the expense of integrity, and indeed the culture of Louisiana is historically French Catholic. And as the Catholics might say, the fall from grace is inevitable, a mystery to be endured rather than a problem to be solved. And some in Louisiana would prefer a smart crook to an unintelligent opportunist masked as a crusader whose ambition blinds him to his own stupidity. Such a one could be just as dangerous, if not more so, than a crook.” As someone born in Louisiana, I very much enjoyed this article. 
  4. Gregory and Travis McMichael face murder charges in connection with Ahmaud Arbery case (Steve Almasy and Angela Barajas, CNN): “Two men involved in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia, have been arrested and face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”
    • It is amazing to me that it was not the video evidence that led to their arrest, but the public outcry in response to the video evidence. 
    • A Vigilante Killing in Georgia (David French, The Dispatch): “When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.”
    • Thinking Christianly About the Ahmaud Arbery Lynching (Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy): “If we are to be people who act justly and promote justice, which is that each person receives their rightful dues, then we must rightly discern what has happened in the case of Arbery. This was a lynching. It was an act that God hates. And so we must recognize that and we must call it by its name and speak out against it and against all such acts of injustice.”
    • Related in the abstract: How to Punish Voters (Josie Duffy Rice, New York Times): “It’s well known that voter suppression has taken the form of the closing of polling places, new restrictive voter ID laws, voter roll purges of thousands of eligible voters and nine-hour lines at the polls. But Ms. Pearson’s case is a reminder that it can also take the form of the aggressive prosecution of individual black voters for polling-place offenses — which in many cases appears motivated less by a sincere desire to address fraud than by a desire to intimidate.”
  5. Pandemic Perspectives
    • The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others? (Hannah Beech, Alissa J. Rubin, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Ruth Maclean, New York Times): “The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100. The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.”
    • Coronavirus Could Disrupt Weather Forecasting (Henry Fountain, New York Times): “…data on temperature, wind and humidity from airplane flights, collected by sensors on the planes and transmitted in real time to forecasting organizations around the world, has been cut by nearly 90 percent in some regions.” I must confess I did not see that coming. At all. 
    • Google App Censoring Covid-19 Courses (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Google is a private entity. It has the right to control what goes out on its app platform. Whether Google is morally correct to exercise that right to suppress any unofficial pandemic information is a different question — and a very important one. Google owns YouTube — how long will they allow these courses to remain on YouTube?” These are courses by academics speaking within their areas of expertise.
    • Related: Who is Judy Mikovits in ‘Plandemic,’ the coronavirus conspiracy video just banned from social media? (Katie Shepherd, Washington Post): “The film is so questionable that social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday scrubbed it from their sites. A Vimeo spokesperson, for example, said that the company ‘stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed … for violating these very policies.’” A friend sent me a link to her video but it was pulled down. I have no opinion about the video because I haven’t seen it. But I do have an opinion about it being pulled down. I dislike that intensely. I fear the risks of misinformation far less than I fear the risks of controlling information. 
    • A pastor in the Bronx thought he knew hardship. Then his church saw 13 coronavirus deaths. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post): “Promised Land, in the poorest congressional district in the nation, sees about 250 mostly African American and Latino worshipers on a normal weekend. Public housing units line the streets near the church in the Mott Haven neighborhood, where city officials estimate the poverty rate is about 44 percent.”
    • In Inner-City Black Churches: More Grief, Fewer Resources, Stronger Faith (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “Despite bearing the disproportionate impact of the outbreak, black believers have demonstrated particular spiritual endurance. In a Pew survey released last week, members of historically black churches were more likely than any other religious tradition to say their faith has been strengthened through the outbreak. More than half (56%) say their faith has become stronger, compared to 35 percent of all Christians and 24 percent of adults overall.”
    • Clinical Study Considers The Power Of Prayer To Combat COVID-19 (Tom Gjelten, NPR): “Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a ‘universal’ prayer offered in five denominational forms, via Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The other 500 patients will constitute the control group.” This study looks like a mess. How do they expect to keep the 500 in the control group from being prayed for? I am pretty sure that if you are hospitalized with Covid-19 someone is praying for you. And my theology leads me to believe those organic, heartfelt prayers offered by people who actually know the patients are going to be more significant than the “universal prayers” offered by the research participants. I expect this study will lead internet atheists to claim that all prayer has been debunked when at most it will show that scripted multifaith prayers offered on behalf of strangers do not move the heart of God. 
    • Food Banks Can’t Go On Like This (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “Normally, ‘rescued’ food—items that would otherwise be thrown out as their sell-by date approaches—accounts for 97 percent of Feeding San Diego’s distributions. Until the pandemic, the group was receiving unpurchased food from 204 Starbucks locations every night of the year. Most of those stores are now closed. The organization normally gets excess food from 260 grocery stores too, but consumers have been stocking up enough lately that many shelves are picked clean.”
  6. The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (YouTube): seven moving minutes. Shared with me by a student’s father.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Sister… Show Mercy! (Dan Phillips, Team Pyro): “Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.” (first shared in volume 148)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

46 thoughts on my 46th birthday

Some thoughts from an aging man offered in the hope that a few of them help you.

Inspired by Kevin Kelly’s 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice, here are 46 thoughts which occur to me on my 46th birthday.

These are not the most important things I believe nor are they ranked. They’re what came to mind, and I offer them in the hope you’ll find at least one or two nuggets useful. Yes, I am aware that many of these are not original to me.

  1. Leaders should be examples and not exceptions. Don’t impose rules upon others you are not willing to follow yourself.
  2. When you’re looking for mentors, look for people at least a decade older than you who have succeeded in at least two different environments. Someone who succeeded once often has a hard time distinguishing what was luck versus what was wise. Someone who has succeeded more than once is more likely to have learned principles.
  3. Wisdom is wanting the right things, knowing how to get them, and pursuing them wholeheartedly.
  4. There are two ways to gain wisdom: from your own experience or from the experience of others. Do as much of the latter as you can. Read widely, talk to interesting people, and in general be a sponge for wisdom.
  5. Ask people who have what you want how they got it. For example, I see single people talking to each other all the time about how to tell if someone is right for them or not. That’s fine, but also ask someone who is happily married how they made their decision. I see new parents give one another advice on child rearing philosophies. I suppose that’s inevitable, but also ask the parents of admirable teenagers or grown children what they did.
  6. People on the left distrust big business. People on the right distrust big government. Maybe we should be suspicious of all big institutions and make sure they have proper checks and balances.
  7. Most people who disagree with you politically are reasonable people who have had different experiences than you.
  8. No matter what you believe (about religion, about politics, about some issue within your profession), there are people smarter and better-informed than you who disagree with you. That doesn’t mean you are wrong, but it does mean you should be humble.
  9. America really is a remarkable nation. Love it enough to keep improving it.
  10. The deliciousness of a cuisine is generally proportional to the number of people who eat that cuisine at home. This is why Chinese food is better than British food.
  11. The best handful of books on a subject can teach you most of what you need to know about it. You can often find great books on a subject by googling “SUBJECT syllabus” and skimming through four or five college syllabi and noting recurring titles.
  12. In college take professors not classes. Find the best professors and take whatever they are teaching.
  13. You are not obligated to finish a book simply because you began it. Give a book 100 pages minus your age to grab your attention.
  14. The consensus view of well-informed people is usually right, but when it is wrong it is hugely wrong.
  15. The cost of maintenance is far less than the cost of repair. Change the oil, brush your teeth, stay in shape, etc.  When relevant, put recurring maintenance tasks on your calendar.
  16. When a task is important, get the tools you need to do it right. Don’t just get by with something that sort of works.
  17. Just get started. Implement and iterate. Beginning on a grade B plan now is (usually) better than waiting to devise a grade A plan you can start on next year. If you just begin with an okay plan and improve it as you go along you’ll be doing something far superior a year from now than if you spent endless hours dreaming about The Best Way. The big exception is things that are not easily reversible (like tearing down a wall in a house – spend as much time thinking that one through as you need).
  18. Money is a tool. Like all tools, there are a lot of problems it can’t solve. But the problems it can solve it solves very effectively. Go read the Reddit personal finance wiki.
  19. Accept that writing is revising. It is okay if your first draft is horrible. Just get your thoughts down onto paper and then you can work to make them better.
  20. Life is the laboratory of philosophy. Just as in science, lots of theories sound good until they are put to the test. You will discover that some things can be thought but not lived and you should reject them.
  21. Be generous. Not only is it kind, it is prudent.
  22. A Christian is someone who believes in the resurrection of Jesus from the grave and lives in light of its implications. Realizing Jesus has risen changes everything.
  23. Everyone is amazing, at least potentially. If you can’t see the awesome (or the potential) in someone you probably don’t know them well enough yet.
  24. A failure to appreciate beauty is a moral failing. If you can’t see the beauty in something that many others can, try to figure out why. It may expose an area of potential growth.
  25. Beliefs drive behavior. If you want to change the way you act, first change the way you think.
  26. All behavior makes sense. If someone does something you don’t understand it is because they were thinking something you find incomprehensible. To them it seemed like their best option. Figuring out what they were thinking doesn’t necessarily excuse their behavior, but it does make it sensible.
  27. Root for your team to win, not for the other team to lose.
  28. Chesterton was right: no one should be allowed to remove a fence who cannot explain why it was put there in the first place.
  29. In your profession there are a handful of people you should stalk. You are looking for people who have the same basic strengths as you but who are operating at a higher level with them than you are. Read everything they’ve written, listen to every speech they’ve given, and talk to everyone who knows them. If befriending them is possible, go for it.
  30. Someday you will stand before the Judge, so don’t play the fool with Him now. Fear God like you fear electricity or fire — respect His power.
  31. Trying to be cool is like applying for an off-brand credit card. Even if you attain it, you can’t spend it anywhere it matters.
  32. For my fellow ministers: the purpose of a sermon is to help people believe, understand, and obey God’s Word. You probably naturally emphasize one of these – be sure to deliberately include the other two as well. Strive to preach so that your message is persuasive to a skeptic, comprehensible to a new believer, and applicable to daily life.
  33. A few years ago I heard someone say you should argue like you are right and listen like you are wrong. That’s pretty good advice.
  34. Bad news is like milk not wine; it does not improve with age. Open that bill, read that letter from the IRS, respond to that “we need to talk” text. You can only find the way out once you know where you’re starting from.
  35. Are you single? A first date is only an interview for a second date, so if in doubt ask them out. Have you been asked out? If in doubt, say yes. The question is not: “Do I think I could marry them?” The question is: “Do I find them interesting enough to want to spend a few hours with?” The threshold for going from date 1 to 2 is a little higher, and from 2 to 3 is higher yet.
  36. Footnotes are better than end notes. Side notes rule them all.
  37. There are a few books and authors you will see mentioned repeatedly by the authors you respect the most. Level up and begin reading the authors your authors are reading.
  38. Losing weight is very hard for some people, but don’t assume it is for you until you try it. Resolve that you will be okay with feeling hungry and set a simple rule that you follow ruthlessly. For me, I decided that I would not eat more than 600 calories at any meal and that I would only eat three meals a day with no snacks. It worked really well.
  39. One of the keys to a good beard is shaving your neck. Avoid neck hair.
  40. International students are amazing people. They left everything behind in pursuit of knowledge. Get to know them and be excellent hosts to them.
  41. Forgiveness is about erasing debts. If you forgive a loan, that means that you don’t expect it to be repaid. Likewise, to forgive an offense is to give up your expectation it will be made right. When you have a hard time forgiving someone, ask yourself what it is that you believe you are owed. You might discover you are still holding on to expectations (of an apology, of restitution, of changed behavior, of vengeance, of reconciliation, etc). Put your expectations behind you and move on. If you find you can’t, pray for God to help you. If you can’t even do that then pray, “Lord, I am not yet willing to forgive them. But I am willing to be made willing. Help me.”
  42. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. You can forgive someone without trusting them again.
  43. Not everyone should marry. Singleness is a noble lifestyle. However, most people will marry and who you marry will wind up being far more important than what you do for a living. Do you know what you call a CEO with a failing marriage? Miserable. If you spend a ton of energy and time preparing for a high-impact career while assuming that a good marriage will just happen you are being foolish.
  44. Calendars are better than to-do lists. When you get a task, put it on your calendar. If there’s no time on your calendar you’re just making a false promise by putting that task on your to-do list.
  45. Avoid temptation. When temptation does come your way, flee. Resisting temptation is a fool’s game. Just as flowing water wears down rock, so constant temptation can wear down the strongest willpower.
  46. We are supposed to worship God, love people, and use things. But we often worship things and use people or we idolize people and love things. Keep God first and everything else will fall to its proper place.